Goatriders of the Apocalypse

GameCasts

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GameCast: Sept. 20 at St. Louis

GameCastCarlos Zambrano (8-6, 3.94 ERA) vs. Adam Wainwright (18-8, 2.59)

Story-lines
Way back before the start of the '07 season -- or perhaps shortly after it began -- I had a long debate with a friend of mine about the quality of the Cubs when compared with the Cardinals.  This friend -- a lifelong Cub fan who used to sling beers in the bleachers during the '84 season along with his buddy Dave Kaplan -- explained to me that the '07 Cards were head and shoulders better than the '07 Cubs at almost every position.  He hammered his views home by telling me how great Adam Wainwright was compared with Rich Hill.

A few years later has proven him right in the long-term about Wainwright vs. Hill -- although as I expected Rich was the most outstanding of the two back in '07 -- but time will never erase the fact that the '07 Cubs were the better.  So, he can suck on that one for a while longer.

As for 2009, at this point there's no doubt that the Cardinals are a force.  They've received key performances from players of middling talent, all of their studs have played exactly as they'd expected, and they've even had the extra bonus of long-hurt stars returning to tip-top shape.  Thus, they have succeeded in making the Cubs their bitches.  Yes, it hurts.  But I would happily take a second-place finish to the Cardinals if it meant a Wild Card playoff berth, but even that won't be happening now.

And as the season winds down, the Cubs have 15 more games.  That's 3 more starts, give or take, which means that Carlos Zambrano will have to win today and once more if he wants to reach double digits for the 7th time in his career.  Hopefully this will be the worst season of his career, ironically appearing in a "prime" year, but we'll have to see about that.  He may not even be a Cub for 2010, although why they'd deal him now makes little sense.

Then again, not much makes sense about this shit-stain of a baseball season.

GameCast: September 19th at St. Louis

GameCastRyan Dempster (10-8, 3.84 ERA) vs. Chris Carpenter (16-4, 2.45 ERA)

Story-lines
It's the unluckiest man in baseball against the guy who should feel lucky to be healthy. 

At the end of last season, Dempster's pending free agency status was the albatross in the room.  It's safe to say that any reasonable Cub fan knew he wouldn't duplicate his 17-win, 2.96 ERA 2007 season, but he wasn't about to realistically drop off again.  Besides, Jim Hendry has rightly displayed not just loyalty to his best players, but a willingness to reward their success and it probably would've sent the wrong message to allow Ryan Dempster to sign elsewhere.  Still, what works out to be essentially a 4-year deal was pretty stupid.

This year, while making $9 million, Clownsevelt has dealt with bad outings, irregular run support, and a broken toe.  He's still managed to get to 10 wins, though, and to get his ERA below 4.  But I still surmise that he's done better than his numbers convey.  Here's what I mean:

K/9: 2007 - 8.14, 2008 - 7.58
K/BB: 2007 - 2.46, 2008 - 2.40

These stats are important for two reasons.  First, if something is physically wrong with a pitcher they will tend to fluctuate a lot.  Second, that they are so similar tells us that something else is responsible for the higher-by-a-run ERA Dempster's sporting.

The answer to that is how many hits he's given up -- teams were batting .227 against him last year, and they're batting .264 against him in '09.  This appears to have happened for a bunch of reasons, the most predominant being that Dempster has allowed for an increasing number of fly-balls -- resulting in a handful more homeruns, but nothing to seek therapy about -- while also surrendering more infield hits (from 5.1% in '08 to 6.4% this year).  For comparison's sake, his opponent Chris Carpenter has an infield hit percentage this year of 5.2%. 

So -- maybe it's Dempster's fault, as he's not keeping the ball down, but maybe it's also his infield's fault, as they're letting more through, and maybe it's also just bad luck.  Either way, my feeling is that in 2010 he'll probably land somewhere between his '08 numbers and his '09 stats. 

Regardless, in three starts this season against the Cardinals Dempster is 0-1 with a 4.26 ERA.  He hasn't dominated them, but they haven't tormented him either.  It should be an interesting game ... assuming the pansy-ass Cubs offense can figure out how to hit Carpenter.

GameCast: Sept 18 at St. Louis - I think Yarbage is tired of GameCasts edition

(and also apparently Kyle ... we'll have the Series Preview late tomorrow, sorry)

GameCastTed Lilly vs. John Smoltz

Story-lines
Let this be a lesson to you all.  It is difficult to blog about something that is often less-than-fun to think about.  Maybe that's why abortion blogs are so far and few between.  Thus, without warning, it appears as if both Kyle and Chris have gone MIA for their various respected reasons, and so I will be stepping in to quickly throw together something to keep you entertained.

About a month ago, the Boston Red Sox released John Smoltz.  The Cubs were at the time desperate for a competent closer.  I threw together a post suggesting an idea "so crazy it just might work," ... the Cubs could sign Smoltz to a contract to close.

It went over about as well as vegan pancakes. 

Since he signed with the Cardinals, though, St. Louis has quickly propelled their way into a playoff spot.  Smoltz has gone 1-1 with a 3.27 ERA and 28 strikeouts and 1 walk in 4 starts.  But let's look back on the immediate response:

lostinthevines says
since the whole "the
players we have need to play better" thing isn't happening - why not
add a new piece? Our payroll sucks as it is - why not completely
explode it?

I'm wondering if lostinthevines is aware of what St. Louis is paying Smoltz to start. 

Then again, what's been wrong with the Cubs couldn't have been solved just by Smoltz, and I doubt that his presence would have made much of a difference -- if at all.  Still, could it have hurt? 

Anyway.  As I write this, the cubs are beating Smoltz and the Cardinals by a score of 2-0 in the 3rd thanks to a Derrek and Aramis double-fest and a Ted Lilly no-hit bid. 

Tomorrow, I will have more on this heated rivalry -- particularly my feelings about the cheating nature of Albert Pujols.  I'm sure Token Cards Fan has been wondering about how we'd handle this series ... I have to admit I've been gathering the photoshops in anticipation.  They will be re-posted soon.

Gamecast: September 17th vs. Brewers

Dave Bush vs. Randy Wells

Story Lines

The Cubs blew a great chance last night thanks to Rich Harden not having command, and the Cubs are basically set back two days, which at this point is too much.

Sorry for the rush, but I had to parent conferences during planning today, so this is all I have. Hopefully, the Cubs will take the third game of the series today.

Gamecast: Spethember 16th vs. Brewers

Braden Looper (12-6, 4.77 ERA) vs. Rich Harden (9-8, 4.04 ERA)

Story Lines
In for my former life, I was a sports writer. I know it is tough to come up with a stories, but I'm sick and tired of the "Trade Carlos" or "Cut Milton" stories that are coming up all the time. It's just time to move on and focus on other things, like the Cubs miracle run to the 2009 playoffs.

I still don't belive they can jump 4 teams, but it will be fun while they continue to stockpile wins against the Brewers. I didn't catch any of last night's game, because I passed out at 6:30 p.m. and didn't wake up until time for work this morning, but I was able to see a few good things that most of the media didn't point out:

  • The Cubs won to go back to 7 games over .500
  • The Cardinals lost to the Marlins, making it a 8.5 game lead (7 back in the loss column).
  • The Rockies lost to the Giants, making it a 5.5 game lead in the Wild Card (4 back in the loss column)
  • The Cubs walked 12 times
  • The Cubs scored 13 runs
  • Geovany Soto can hit again

A lot of things have to happen, but we are better today than we were last week.

Who's Hot
Derrek Lee - Lee was perfect last night. He had two hits to go along with his four walks. His OBP is not at .391, which is tops on the team. 

Mike Fontenot - I'm pretty sure I said Fontenot should get another crack at starting the other say. How does he respond? Oh, two hits, a walk and a RBI. Not too bad.

Geovany Soto - Soto hit another HR last night and saw his September line improve to .360/.452/.800.

Who's Not
Milton Bradley/Kosuke Fukudome - They were the only two starters who didn't pick  a hit last night. It would be nice to see both of these guys go on a tear in the last two weeks, but I won't be holding my breath.

Conclusions
I'm not crazy. Really, I know the Cubs making the playoffs is about as likely as the government running Health Care effectively. Still, it is more fun to follow a team with some kind of chance, and the Cubs still have a chace.

Gamecast: September 15th vs. Brewers

GameCastYovani Gallardo (12-11, 3.59 ERA) vs. Carlos Zambrano (8-6, 3.77 ERA)
Story Lines

The Cubs almost had a perfect night last night. They found a way to win without much offense, the Giants lost, but the Cardinals out-slugged the Marlins (which wasn't all bad, since the Cubs trail the Marlins in the Wild Card).

The Cubs are 6.5 games back in the Wild Card with 20 games left. That's a lot of games to make up, of course it is worse because the Giants, Braves and Marlins are still ahead of the Cubs. The Cubs are actually tied in the loss column with the Braves and Marlins now, so there is some hope.

Tonight's game is the worse match-up for the Cubs with Gallardo on the mound, but the Cubs are ready to break loose, I can feel it. Still, the playoff chances are really tiny right now. Lets just say the Rockies the finish 9-8 in their last 17 games. That would mean the Cubs would need to go 17-3, just to tie. I just don't see that happening. Now, if the Rockies fall apart and go 5-12, that is another story, but that would be a tough assignment as well.

Who's Hot
Derrek Lee - Lee's like a broken record, but in a good way. He hit another home run last night to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead, which turned out to be enough. He's hitting .304 overall now, and has 33 HR's. If the Cubs do make the playoffs somehow, it will be because of D-Lee.

Aramis Ramirez - Two more hits and he's hitting .324 now, which would be the highest average of his career. Too bad, he missed all that time this year.

Who's Not
Jeff Baker - Maybe it's time to give Fontenot a start. Baker's 1 for his last 18, which now opens the question of second base in 2010.

Everybody else - Only Jake Fox and Mike Fontenot picked up hits last night after our two best players.

Conclusions
The Cubs have to stockpile some wins to have a chance, and I would love to see the Giants sweep the Rockies, while the Cubs sweep the Brewers. If that happened, the Cubs would be 4 games back heading into the weekend.

Gamecast: September 14th vs. Brewers

Jeff Suppan (6-9, 5.05 ERA) vs. Ryan Dempster (9-8, 4.03 ERA)

Story Lines
A funny thing happened this last week, the Cubs last ditch playoff chances got a little boost. The Cardinals finally decided to lose, and the Rockies came back down to earth. Granted, the playoff chancesare still very remote, but they are better than they were a couple days ago.

The Cubs are 8-games back in the loss column in the NL Central, and 7 back in the Wild Card. Well, at least the Cubs still are playing  a few meaningful games this week. If they can find a way to cut into the lead a little this week, it might make this weekend's series a little bit more fun. I'm all for putting a little fear in the Cardinals before they cake walk into the playoffs.

This week, the Cubs get to face off against the Brewers. They still have a pretty good offense, but the pitching was been really up and down. Tonight, the Cubs send their most up and down pitcher, Ryan Dempster, to the mound.

Who's Hot
Derrek Lee - He is amazing right now, too bad the Cubs will likely miss the postseason once again during his second best year as a Cub.

Geovany Soto - Where did this come from? Oh right, Soto was once a good hitter. This at least gives us hope for next season. He has 7 RBI in his last three games.

Micah Hoffpauir - It looks like Micha's trip to AAA has helped him out. He's hitting .364 with two HR's in his last five games.

Who's Not
Milton Bradley - Welcome back Milton, it seems like yesterday when you were here on a daily basis. Lately, Milton is 3 for his last 19 at the plate.

Kusoke Fukudome - Maybe next year Fukudome will be able to put a complete season together. In his last six, Fukudome's got three hits. He's only hitting .154 in September.

Conclusions
The Cubs need a lot of wins, and it might interesting to see how many they can put together in the next few days.

GameCast: September 13th vs. Reds

GameCastHomer Bailey (5-4, 5.60 ERA) vs. Ted Lilly (11-8, 3.17 ERA)

Story-lines
The Cubs blew a chance to gain a game on the Rockies last night, thanks in part to the erratic arm of Carlos Marmol.  I know that some people think he's capable of being the team's next closer, but his inability to regularly throw a strike makes that a bad idea. 

Maybe Marmol is just erratic and always will be, but you'd think the team's pitching coach might figure out a few strategies to fix his mechanics and help him get effective again.  Perhaps Larry should be sitting down with the Dramatic Gopher and they could study tape from a few years ago when he was accurate and unhittable.  Or maybe not.

It seems to me that in Chicago, the concept of closer has been blown to epic proportions over the years.  Maybe that's because the Cubs haven't had a guy do the job well for more than two years straight since the 80's.  But it seems to me that teams have found success converting all sorts of middle relievers into closers in recent years, so maybe the Cubs should stop over-thinking it and just give their best reliever a shot -- that'd be Angel Guzman, at least this season.

Who's Hot

Geo Soto -- Way too little, and way, way too late.  Soto has been hitting at a sick pace as of late, but he's still a second-year FAIL.  Next season will be essential for him.

Who's Not
The Cubs Bullpen -- every day as of late the Cubs pen has coughed up a lot of runs, even in games they've won.  It'd probably be fair to call them Lou's dirty habit or something ... just when you think it's better now and things have cleaned up, the dirty habit reappears and the Cubs tank again.

Conclusions

With all due respect to Randy Wells -- and he is due a ton of my respect by now -- Ted Lilly has been the best pitcher on the team in 2009.  He was also lit up like a firecracker against the Reds last year, but he's been luckier in '09.  I feel good about this team's chances of getting a series win.

GameCast: September 12th vs. Reds

GameCast"Broke-Arm" Johnny Cueto (9-10, 4.39 ERA) vs. Randy Wells (10-8, 2.84 ERA)

Story-lines
The Chicago Cubs surge toward the improbable today as they play for their 5th straight win!  The odds are in their favor as they square off against talented Reds youngster Johnny Cueto, who secretly prays to the Baby Jesus every night for Dusty Baker to drown in a vat of goat cheese.  His opponent is unheralded Rookie of the Year competitor Randy Wells, who may or may not get a single first place vote depending on how badly the media sucks J.A. Happ's dick this October.

I know, we've been stirring the pot a little with my recent "they could" post, followed by Rob's "Kurt's crazy" article, intermixed with comments by the Token Cards Fan who has so-awesomely represented his creed thus far on GROTA.  The TCF thinks it's admirable to have the never-say-die attitude, while Rob has already purchased for "never-say-die" a neighboring plot for in the cemetery next to the '09 Cubs season.  

Me, I'm a realist.  The Cubs aren't playoff bound.  But I'm also one of the least-negative people you'll ever encounter, and even while I know the Cubs won't be over-taking the Rockies for the Wild Card, it's entertaining to imagine what they'd need to do for that to happen.  So, to address directly the back-and-forth, I wasn't being sarcastic when I posted the numbers the Cubs would need to achieve to win 90.  But I'm not exactly booking a trip to Chicago for early October either.

Who's Hot
Jeff Baker says "Mark DeRosa who?"  He's batting .478 this past week.

Derrek Lee, who's batting .421 with 4 homers and 6 RBI is a raging ball of fire out there.

Geovany Soto is batting .400 too, albeit in only 10 at bats.

Who's Not
Kosuke Fukudome - .185 in his last 27 at bats. 

Aramis Ramirez - .160 in his last 25.

Koyie Hill - .188 in his last 16.

Conclusions

I don't hate the Reds, but I wouldn't exactly offer Dusty a bed to sleep on if he ever got thrown out of his house.  More to the point, I'd probably get him drunk, take him into the woods, spin him in circles, and run away laughing maniacally while he hopelessly wailed in despair.  But it'd probably be easier to just maniacally cheer the Cubs on to victory tomorrow, so that's what I will do instead.

Gamecast: September 11th vs. Reds

GameCastJustin  Lehr (4-1, 4.43 ERA) vs. Rich Harden (9-8, 4.10 ERA)

Story Lines
While the Cubs may be furstrating at times, it is good to reflect on how great the game of baseball truly is. It amazes me that eight years have passed since September 11th, but here we are and the game we love is still talking up our time even when things are not great. Regardless of how you feel about the current political atmosphere, take a step back enjoy the fact we have something so pure and great to focus on year after year.

I feel sorry for nations that do not get this level of enjoyment or pain for that matter. I know many people have pain in their lives, but this is a different kind of pain that is healed sometimes yearly. During the last eight years, the Cubs have made the playoffs three times, won two division titles, and broke our hearts eight times. Who doesn't love that? The funny thing is that we will back ready for more starting this offseason. By the times pitchers and catchers report, all will be forgiven for this season and our hopes renewed.

Enjoy the rest of the day, and watch a game this weekend if you get a chance. Life is too short to blame Jim Hendry for everything, and we need to embrace these times, because we will not be on this earth forever. We might as well watch more baseball while we still can.

Who's Hot
Jeff Baker - Now playing second base for your 2010 Chicago Cubs, "Jeff Baker." Baker has a 1.073 OPS in his last seven games and barring a big change will be the starter at 2B next season.

Geovany Soto - He's 4 for 10 in his last three games, with three of those hits coming for doubles. We'll take what we can get at this point.

Derrek Lee - He has four home runs in the last week, but only 6 RBI. How does that work? Oh right, people need to get on base in front of him to drive them in.

Who's Not
Aramis Ramriez/Kosuke Fukudome - Both of these guys have OPS's under .600 in their last six games.

Conclusions
Rob and Kurt both commented on the Cubs chances for the playoffs. Well, I say we pull a Major League and take the whole "win he whole F'ing thing" approach. I know it is a long shot, but it is better than no shot.

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